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January 15, 2006

BEA announces retail portal for RFID

BEA Systems Inc yesterday announced a new portal for retailers that integrates with RFID tag data and applications.

By CBR Staff Writer

The goal is to streamline store operations, manage inventory and control costs, BEA said.

The company’s new AquaLogic High-Performance Workspace for Retail portal promises retailers an easy way to keep track of products tagged with RFID.

Data notifications and task management prompts for a specific retail outlet would also be available. For example, when a pallet of RFID-tagged goods arrives at a store’s warehouse, the field manager would be notified via a message on the portal. This may, in turn, trigger a response from corporate headquarters with a list of actions and priorities for the manager to best handle those goods.

Reducing out-of-stocks is an example of the portal’s usefulness with RFID, said Christine Wan, director of product marketing. She said every store in a retail chain would have unique log in and perhaps even individual staff within the store.

Essentially, the portal can take all of a company’s RFID data, in its various forms, and make it meaningful to a retailer, said Puneet Agarwal, director of RFID solutions.

Of course, that includes data collected from BEA’s own RFID server stack.

The company has three RFID servers, but its WebLogic Edge Server, a stand-alone server that collects RFID tag data (but is not embedded in an RFID reader), would be the minimum requirement for the new portal, Agarwal said. The portal also works with other vendors’ servers.

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BEA also has an RFID enterprise server, which manages RFID tag data across an enterprise and throughout its supply chain. The company’s third server enables enterprise integration and messaging so that consumer product goods manufacturers can comply with US Department of Defense and retailers’ RFID mandates.

A company does not require all three BEA RFID products to use the portal for RFID purposes, but Agarwal said having both the edge and enterprise server would be optimal.

While other vendors, notably IBM, offer similar software, Agarwal said BEA’s was differentiated by being based on EPCglobal standards and by being a soup-to-nut offering. Some companies can’t provide out-of-the-box reader support or don’t provide some of the key standards, for instance, Agarwal said.

BEA’s RFID offerings may be getting deeper, but most US companies are taking a phased approach to RFID and likely won’t buy an entire stack at once. But Agarwal said that may change this year.

I think there will be a number of large [RFID] deployments this year, he said. It’s not clear that we’ve reached our tipping point in RFID, but I can see that happening later in the year.

The AquaLogic portal will be available on January 27, said BEA, which is based in San Jose, California.

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